Posts Tagged ‘Peter Siddle’

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Consider this.

In the days just before the closely contested Ashes, Andy Murray wins the Wimbledon. Australia’s tactical blunders during the lead-up seem painfully obvious on either camp. It becomes mysterious to note how certain writers, or former cricketers, magically understood and responded to the sacking of Mickey Arthur, and the installment of Darren Lehmann, as an ingenious move towards Australia being tilted as favorites.

The English press doesn’t need an excuse to run tactical, negative campaigns – they take every opportunity to remind the public, and the Australians, about their self-inflicted chaos, unrelenting in their desire to also publish demi-god narratives around Cook and Murray, often providing the much needed humor bordering sledgehammer stupidity.

I suspect that the Australians saw past the outright cynicism being depicted. Handing Agar his debut was a reflection of their experimental attitude, coupled with a huge dose of self-confidence. Or his services for a solitary Pietersen wicket. And England’s choice of Steven Finn over Tim Bresnan, whose statistics at Trentbridge and ability to reverse swing would’ve made him an automatic choice hands down, sent a puzzling message.

The lack in parity to this series’ build-up, given the absence of pyrotechnics involving verbatim mouthfuls that we have so been used to, was nullified by sessions two and three of Day 1. Australia’s bowling wasn’t as portentous as a score of 215 would indicate, rather an obvious display of England becoming victims of their self-aggrandizing stroke decision making had the writing on the wall. And what could pose as a better example than the loose stroke Cook played to unscrew the wheels of his parked bus that fetched him in excess of 700 runs the last times the two teams met.

Peter Siddle

Siddle’s Five-For sparked off the Ashes once again © The Australian

That doesn’t deny the due credit Peter Siddle deserves for his five-for. A game of test cricket is about remaining patient, waiting to exploit the right opportunity and the right time. And that is precisely what Siddle did, inducing the Englishmen in to playing strokes they otherwise wouldn’t have.

It isn’t often that you get a chance to see a frustrated Trott at the crease, his suicidal whiff of the wand outside off-stump ending what otherwise looked a promising, foundation-laying 48. Australia’s plan of bowling straight at Trott reaped few results, with the number 3 batsman happy to work anything around middle-off-outside-off down the leg side.

Only a shot as un-Trottesque as that could’ve sent him back to the pavilion. Chris Rogers would’ve been in his nappies the last time Trott would’ve even thought of playing such a shot. Siddle’s figures would have been a mere footnote had Pietersen and Trott not succumbed to loose shots.

A brief period of counter-attacking batsmanship featuring Broad and Bairstow was otherwise what threw hopes of England posing a decently sizeable total. A momentary lapse in concentration sent Broad back home, followed by a classical Bairstow dismissal – playing all around a straight delivery. England crashed down like a pack of cards placed in front of a table fan.

And so did Australia’s top order. You could’ve been forgiven for thinking that the same sample set of batsmen swapped shirts after seven minutes, and continued their tryst with flaying at deliveries outside off stump. And so did Clarke to the delivery that almost got Finn his hat-trick.

The margins of success between a good and a bad shot played to a ball outside off stump are so inconsiderable that video analyses are unlikely to render anything qualitative. On another day, the shots played by Watson and Cowan could have ended up in the cover boundary. But they played them early, all right. If a naked eye couldn’t spot it, observing how late Chris Rogers played the ball at the other end stood a relative frame of reference. Experience counts.

So does luck. Or brilliance, however you see it. With the initial limelight on Finn and his pace, it took a peach of a ball from Anderson to get rid of Michael Clarke, almost as though the occasion was saved for England’s spearhead bowler to get rid of Australia’s most dangerous batsman. Any hope that Australia harbored on their captain to deliver was smoke-screened by a late out-swinger that kissed the top-of-off. Clarke would’ve fallen victim to that, whether he’d been on 0, or 150.

James Anderson lived up to expectations with a classic out-swinger that sent Clarke back home

James Anderson lived up to expectations with a classic out-swinger that sent Clarke back home

It looks a platform that would require the patience of an archetypal anchorman to crawl through to a hundred. Smith’s unsure methods, indicated by his ‘little boy waiting in a dentist’s room’ nervousness towards the not-so-short deliveries, laid the onus on veteran Rogers, playing his second test, to sail the Australian towards safer shores.

But the old statesman didn’t last long, falling leg-before to a straight delivery from Anderson and knocking of a tally from the review count as he walked back. With Graeme Swann still awaiting a swing of his arms, there seemed every possibility of another wicket falling given the Englishman’s healthy track record of a guaranteed scalp within his first few overs. And that the badly out-of-form Phil Hughes walked in at six.

It makes you wonder the sort of message that is being sent across when a batsman of the caliber of Smith is sent ahead of Hughes. Not to doubt the former’s ability, he is a gritty individual but isn’t considered in the same league of batsmen as Phil Hughes is, although recent statistics won’t point necessarily so.

But to his credit, Smith started looking more assured with every ball faced. He started playing with soft hands, often removing his bottom hand off the grip to place the ball delicately between fielders for quick singles. His determination wins over his not so quaint technique.

And with a day lasting as long as a Djokovic preamble to a serve, a pleasantly surprising feature of an English summer, England hold the edge on a day that would’ve had them made read unpleasant verdicts of themselves during the innings break. What a comeback to spark the Ashes!


Goutham Chakravarthi

There is nothing wrong with this Indian team. That is if you believe in the theory that bowlers who bowl with a straight arm actually bowl with a 360-degree bend.

It was another day of what has now become the norm with the Indian team. Catches were dropped and the batting collapsed. And Clarke finds himself where Dhoni was not so long ago: his juggling of bowlers as mesmerizing as that of juggler in a circus and is easily among the three best batsmen on the world on current form. It is a far cry from not so long ago where he seemed desperate to want to earn the respect of the fans and his questions over his lifestyle.

Lyon accounted for the wickets of Sehwag, Tendulkar and Laxman. © Getty Images

On another day, Haddin would be accused of being selfish in not going for quick runs closing in on a declaration, but winning teams can afford to carry some struggling players. But not for long and Clarke’s angry declaration just minutes past lunch might have passed on that message to Haddin. If Haddin were Indian, he would have been accused of looking after his average.

Sehwag’s innings bespoke of a man trying to chase down an impossible target. But it lacked conviction. Sehwag at his best keeps out good deliveries and goes after the rest. Here, he was lucky, initially, and ultra-aggressive when he eventually skied a waist-high full-toss to get out. India needed to bat five sessions to save the Test. And the skipper didn’t show the determination he did four years ago at the same venue to do just that.

Tendulkar’s series has nose dived post Sydney. His dismissals have become tamer and today, Lyon ensured Tendulkar’s last series in Australia wasn’t going to be as profitable as his previous four tours there. And by the time a Laxman flick brought about his downfall, Lyon had proved that he had the game and the temperament to succeed. And his captain set good catching fields for him to look for wickets all the while.

And as Kohli ran himself out at the fag end of the day, India’s misery on the field seems all but over.

A young Rafael Nadal believed his uncle and coach Toni Nadal had super powers and that he could even bring in the rain as he wished. Toni promised that he would bring in the rains should Nadal look like losing. Once playing in an age group tournament, after struggling initially against a boy much older than he, Nadal seemed to get the hang of it when it started to drizzle. Nadal walked up to Toni and said that he could stop the rain because he felt confident that would beat the older boy and did just that.

May be, India’s best option is to see if they could borrow Toni for a day.

Goutham Chakravarthi

It was another day of disappointment for the Indians. But no so much when compared the disappointments of their team selection and body language. As sun beat down the City of Churches, Peter Siddle, in an inspired spell of wholehearted fast bowling, ensured India didn’t have a prayer.

Hitherto a bowler who liked to bang it half way in to the pitch, a strong message was sent to him when he was not picked for the Tests in Sri Lanka after he failed to bowl the lengths his coach recommended. A trier and a captain’s delight, he has come back strongly with a performance that will do him proud. On a hot day and on a very fine batting surface, he eked the life out of Indians and deservedly given a rapturous applause whence he took his fifth wicket.

Kohli and Siddle shared the day's honours. © Getty Images

”The situation of the game, how much time was left in the game, there wasn’t too much need to talk about it,” said Siddle in the press conference at the end of the day’s play on the decision to enforce the follow on. If any one earned a rest, he did that today. His captain will need his energy and effort when they bowl again. And with the wicket offering to crumble at the end of third day’s play and with two hot days predicted, the decision might well have been straight forward. Siddle added, ”The Adelaide Oval wicket is one that you don’t really want to be batting on last so we didn’t have to think too much about that. It’s just a matter of getting out there now and batting a bit of time out of the game but still scoring some runs to obviously try to bat them out of the game. We’re in a good position.” The heat did get to the umpires in the last session where they at leas made three mistakes.

Nathan Lyon impressed with steady bowling and looked threatening with the dip, turn and bounce he extracted. He accounted for Laxman, a supreme player of spin even on his worst day, with one that gripped and bounced. His ability to hold his own and offer control at one end was mighty impressive and looks to have finally nailed the spinner’s slot that has been a bit of a lottery ever since Warne retired. He can expect to bowl a lot more over the next two days.

The best thing to have come out of this Test for India so far has been the fight shown by Kohli and Saha today. Two spirited youngsters kept an honest attack out for session and half. They defended well and played some sparkling strokes. Beyond everything else, they fought with everything they had.

Saha has carried the reputation of being the best glovesman in the country for quite some time now and is more than a capable batsman. He might not be a regular in the Test team yet, but he seems a good bet to invest on. Like perhaps that India have not dumped Kohli after a few failures, they will do well to invest in Saha and give him a long rope.

It is very evident from this series that the best days of many of India’s greats are behind them. Some might still come good if given an extended run, but will be juvenile of the selectors not to build on the promise shown by youngsters in Kohli, Saha and Umesh Yadav in this series. Perhaps it is time they tried out at least one new opening batsman and shunned one of the older middle-order batsmen. Virat Kohli should be pushed to number three and two experienced middle-order players can follow him opening up a slot at 6 for another young batsman. India should look to the future. A golden era has ended, but doesn’t mean the next generation cannot be as successful as its predecessor.

Goutham Chakravarthi

India stand to lose more than just the series when the third Test gets underway on Friday morning. Talks of both teams going with four quick bowlers have donned the headlines over the last two days, but they have been just a sub-text in a week dominated by Haddin’s claims on India being a side not needing much to turn on each other and Zaheer’s counter claims to it. Perhaps, Haddin folding his hands and saying, “Friday the 13th… be scared India…. be very scared…” is sillier than Hrithik Roshan calling this the Agneepath series. Even though some of the cricket from India in Sydney was pretty silly, none could match these sequence of events over the last week.

From being touted to be the best opening pair in the world two seaons ago, Gambhir and Sehwag have largely disappointed. They were Batman and Robin, Holmes and Watson, and Bryan and Bryan: irresistible and scintillating. They would thrill with their strokeplay and running between the wickets. One would sneeze and the other would catch a cold. Two close pals, one a genius on his day, and the other, a determined soul, needing each other more than ever before to turn it around for themselves and for their team. They set the tone and their form usually dictates how well India do as a batting unit.

If they can give India a good start, India will fancy their chances. Photo: AFP

Yes, in their heyday, this team would turnaround every friction, banter and abuse to its advantage. They were among the most respected and tough bunches going around. Yet, with reasons, firstly, with injuries, and now with age, the reasons for decline have not been arrived at. Some have pointed out to Fletcher’s incoming to this team coinciding with its dipping fortunes, but, the coach and the team swear by the culture and insist that nothing has changed.

The reason for India’s declining fortunes is directly proportional to its waning batting performances. India’s planning in the Tests has not been as prudent as it has been in the one-dayers. It took a hard stand to leave out the likes of Laxman, Dravid and Ganguly and groom youngsters and reaped benefits. A similar attempt in Tests has never materialized.

India goes into Perth with little confidence and/or collective form. A green pitch might guarantee 20 wickets for both sides. There in lies India’s best chance. The chasm between the sides has been Australia’s bowling. India’s bowling has been inconsistent and seems to rise and fall with Zaheer’s mood and health. Should the wicket encourage a three day Test, the result will hinge on a crucial 70 here or there, and, right now, that seems to be the best the Indian middle-order seems to be able to produce.

Over the next few days, this Indian team will not just fight the Fremantle Doctor and the Aussies for the series, but for their immediate future. While the right thing would be to blood a couple of youngsters, it is difficult to imagine this team management opting for that. For long, consistency in its team selection counted among its strengths, now, it might have come back to haunt them.

Australia go in as favourites, but the pitch might give India a chance to pull one back.

You can read preview from the Australian camp here.

Chandrasekhar Jayaramakrishnan

Mind games with the Aussies, much akin to the way they play cricket themselves is about attack and more attack. Rarely courteous and often lacking an element of political correctness, the ‘mind-game’ quotient is always deferential to the raw aggression at the core of their intent. The channels through which these thoughts become manifest, apart from media headlines, is via the Aussie crowds’ seascape of humor: from inflammatory jibes to stirring loud-mouthed opinions.

Australia’s most potent 12th man is the collection of chants emanating from the dry-humored men amidst the high terraces of Aussie arenas. And as the stage moves to the West, Australia’s quasi-twelfth men look as though they’d have a greater impact on the Indians than the current Australian top order.

It should be noted however that two, out of the three, top order places currently occupied are stop-gap solutions to what otherwise is a better laid plan. Injuries, and lack of a better idea, are what still keeps Cowan and Marsh at the top – although this might sound a lot lesser harsher than what it really conveys. No individual can be thoroughly judged in the context of two games, but given today’s competition for places, such thoughts become inevitable.

Perth demonstrates how Cricket is Going Green © Resource2 News

A green and bouncy Perth wicket would mean as much joy to the bowlers as it would mean misery to some of the Aussie batsmen. Given their record against the moving ball of late, it would be a surprise to see a greenish top (even if reports claim so) given how the Aussie batsmen have been found wanting under such conditions.

The selectors can afford to be cagey though, given the middle order spark of late, and decide to stick to the winning combination for the rest of the series. That would mean that further lack of runs from either Cowan or Marsh (and even Warner to an extent) would be ignominious to their reputations perpetually. And players, who’ve traditionally taken this route, ended up not witnessing further international action, or in some cases, revived their careers after a rather large period of isolation and strong domestic performances. Marsh, a Perth local, would especially want to capitalize on home soil.

In the process of admiring Clarke’s feats, the revival of Ricky Ponting and the gusty temperament of Michael Hussey, the other side of the equation – the pace bowling department’s steadiness throughout – has been overlooked. Sure, the likes of young Cummins and Pattinson would’ve relished a wicket like Perth to bowl on, but the tendency to repeatedly catalogue young, exciting fast bowlers has not ended up giving Hilfenhaus and Siddle the credit they deserve. Whether a four man pace attack at Perth would be an option envisioned is yet to be ascertained, but over-rate concerns apart, the idea may not seem all that farfetched.

Ryan Harris would be an automatic choice to fill the void left by Pattinson. Having not played since being injured during the tour of Sri Lanka, Perth would be an ideal venue to resume duties. As for Mitchell Starc, the question lingering around the four man pace attack would have to be answered before his name pops up on the team sheet. Given his height and the steep bounce he is likely to generate, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he lines up with his team mates at Perth, leaving Nathan Lyon to warm the bench this time.

Unlike Sydney, where the focus was largely on the numbers gathered by the middle order batsman, Perth would give the audiences an opportunity to witness what pace and bounce can do to unsettle batsmen. Given that age has caught up with most of the Indian batsmen, their reflexes would be tested beyond imaginable measure by the Aussie attack, which would, like the previous tests, target taking twenty wickets before the final day dawns. But with the visitors having triumphed at Perth last tour, complacency may find very little space in the Aussie dressing rooms.

You can read preview from the Indian camp here.